In Cambodia, many (though surprisingly not all) hotels are very aware of the Khmer Rouge past and put in extra effort to help the country and its people grow. Sojourn Boutique Villas goes so far above this that they’re on another scale entirely.
The hotel is located in Treak Village, a few minutes drive on the other side of Siem Reap from the Angkor temples. You’re thankfully away from the noise of Pub Street and the touts of Cambodia’s most visited city.
Just outside the grounds of the hotel you can experience the real Cambodia. Inside the grounds, you’re treated to personalized boutique service and spacious stand-alone suites in a garden surrounding a refreshing swimming pool (with a sloped entry ideal for both wheelchairs and toddlers). There’s an excellent spa, cooking school and restaurant on-site (well worth a visit, even if you’re not staying here).
Sojourn is owned by an Australian family. Even though their business operates in a developing country, they believe their staff deserves the working conditions of a developed one. While Cambodian labour laws are good, they are rarely enforced. Sojourn goes above and beyond them and uses the Australian labour code as their guidelines, including providing paid maternity leave to staff.
Sojourn uses as many products as possible that support local and environmental initiatives, as well as those aimed at helping the most underprivileged in Cambodian society. These include Eggsellent Eggs, Ibis Rice, the Bakong Pottery Prolung Khmer NGO and Osmose hyacinth products from the Tonle Sap lake. Of course the hotel is also environmentally inclined, with solar powered hot water, composting and a waste reduction program, low energy electronics, and one of the most advanced septic and water management systems in Siem Reap.
Sojourn is extremely inclusive of the villages nearby. The majority of staff are from Treak village, giving employment opportunities and income levels that would otherwise require at least transportation into Siem Reap. Training programs go beyond just what is needed to do the job. They recognize that most Cambodians come from a life of farming in tiny rural villages with limited education opportunities or health care, and where one in twelve children still dies before their fifth birthday. At Sojourn, all staff have the opportunity to learn English, are empowered and gain confidence and hope in addition to career skills.
After a devastating typhoon in 2009, the hotel created an NGO called HUSK to partner with two local villages, and recently expanded to a third. Five percent of hotel profits go directly to the NGO and there are a number of other initiatives that make real differences. For example, guests are unobtrusively invited to donate directly by buying gift postcards which fund projects like flood-resistant gardens for local families. Each postcard project requires the family’s commitment and involvement for success, so a donation isn’t a handout but a helping hand to enable the family’s chance to move forward. The NGO has spelled out guiding principles to ensure it helps not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term. For example, they provide supports within the village structure so that families stay together and children have access to both education and a childhood—all while minimizing outside influence on their cultural or religious beliefs.
By staying at Sojourn, you help Cambodia too. If you’d like to donate directly to HUSK, visit the NGO’s website.
Editor's note: The writer was hosted by the hotel, but all opinions are her own and no one from the hotel reviewed or approved the article.